20 September 2009

Cost of a garden

The news is full of stories about the "new trend" of urban gardening and now people who have jumped on the bandwagon are now crying foul that they haven't got back what they spent. I never expected to get back what I put in the first year or two but once the beds are established, I should get plenty back.

Even this year, we did pretty well despite having lousy dirt (not soil, just dirt) and not really knowing how the light would (or wouldn't) fall in our yard.

Big winners:

two cucumber seedlings produced about 25 cucumbers
two zucchini seedlings produced about 15 large zucchini
two bags of onion sets are still producing, pretty much 90% success rate
radish seed tape produced plenty of radishes -- almost too many to eat.
carrot seed tape produced lots of carrots but too close together
potatoes each produced at least a pound of potatoes in return -- we easily got 12 lbs of potatoes
eight scarlet runner bean seeds produced many pounds of beans plus attracted hummingbirds to the yard.

Jury is out:

two eggplant seedlings produced only one eggplant but a lot of amusement and pretty flowers
a dozen strawberry plants produced few berries (two pints?) but those it did produce were ridiculously tasty
four summer squash plants from seed (we planted more but only 4 sprouted) produced about 12 small squash plus several that rotted or were eaten by slugs, etc.
a half-dozen peas planted from seed produced about 4 pods each -- not much but enough for lunchbox snacks
lettuce -- seed tape produced closely grown plants that were great for a while then all wilted at once.
six pumpkin seeds produced two plants which yielded three pumpkins, one of which rotted on the vine. However, they are pretty and will be useful for Halloween.

Big disappointments:

tomatoes -- lots of seedlings, some purchased, some given to us -- produced almost no ripe fruit.
edamame -- 6 seedlings produced some beans but not enough to make a side dish for the three of us plus I mistakenly left them on the plants too long and they dried there.
spinach -- I planted it too late and what grew just bolted.
peppers -- killed by the heat of the greenhouse because we didn't un-pot them and plant them in the garden.

For most of the summer, we haven't had to buy too many vegetables, just supplemental. I figure we got about $100-$125 in vegetables out of the garden after spending about $70 on seeds and seedlings (I'm not counting what we spent on dirt or materials for the raised beds). Not a fantastic return, admittedly, but the seeds we bought will last us through one or two more seasons, to be supplemented by a few seedlings. We have also tried saving a few seeds to plant next year.

The biggest value of course is not the actual cost of the food but knowing where it comes from and having the freshest possible food available.


Chair said...

Amen :D

Not to mention the value of trying, working and learning that comes with starting a garden from scratch. Next year will be better, and the year after that, even better!

Martha said...

It took my vegetable garden several years to be really productive.

I have speculated that the soil improved year after year.

Ripe tomatoes by the bushel basket still elude me but many other herbs and vegetables have been successful.

We keep making and adding compost. We grow compost worms and feed their castings to the veggie garden.

Also, I'm slowly learning what kind of veggies are worth growing and which ones I should just buy at the farmer's market. Eggplant is one of those I just buy.

Anne said...

I've been thinking of putting together a similar tally of our garden. Overall, I'd say we have come out way ahead. I spent a fair amount of $$ on compost for the garden, but I think it was well worth it when it came to production.

Some things failed outright - peppers!

Others were fantastically successful - zucchini, cauliflower, broccoli - and it looks like our turnips/parsnips/rooted parsley will be successful...

I won't bother with pumpkins again - they take up too much room and get really ugly! Onions must be planted way earlier...

Must plant several more basil plants.

Growing from seeds (vs. starts) has been surprisingly successful!

It's been a fantastic learning experience!

Suzanne said...

As you say, knowing where your food has come from is a huge payoff. Other benefits, in my humble opinion: you're lessening your contribution to crappy farming practices; you're not having your food transported in from a ridiculously long way away; you're showing Kiddo where food comes from (not necessarily the store on a foam tray!), the work that goes into each item, and how to get by when you need to. There were times when I was a poor student (here we go!) when I could have done just this, but was too witless and lazy to. She'll grow up knowing these fundamental things that so many people are unaware of. So bravo, you!